ACC loses focus

Column: Sideline Scholars

Tarnation! By all that is Southern, what are they doing to the Atlantic Coast Conference?

In case you haven't heard, the ACC has accepted Boston College as its 12th member. This comes on the heels of the first round of expansion, when Virginia Tech and Miami University jumped to the conference in June from the Big East.

The BC Eagles' entry no doubt has officials at ACC schools happy. The move gives the conference 12 teams, which is just enough for a football conference championship game that could generate up to $11 million annually, according to the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer.

This is dandy for the bank accounts of ACC schools, but what about the student-athletes of the conference, who will play for free while bigwigs cash in on the made-for-television deal?

But most of all, what about the ACC as a uniquely Southern institution? Boston College is the antithesis of every school in the conference: a private Jesuit school located in a major city. Chestnut Hill is also known more for ice hockey than basketball, which is unfortunate considering the ACC has and always will pride itself on the latter.

This conference is a regional institution, just like stock car racing, sweet tea and hellfire ministers. Adding Boston College to the mix would be analogous to putting Kraft barbecue sauce on Carolina barbecue: Blasphemy!

As influential as those impassioned ministers may be, there is another religion in the South and that's the ACC. The only difference between the two religions is that the less theologically oriented one has an easier time getting converts. No matter what part of the country you come from, once you move to the South, you have to get behind an ACC team.

Let's put things into perspective. Perhaps Boston College and its new bedfellows could have a friendly sporting exchange. The Eagles could compete with ACC schools in basketball as long one of those schools was allowed into the Beanpot Hockey Tournament. I can see it now "Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern" and the Clemson Club Ice Hockey team.

But that would never happen because it would demean the proud tradition of college hockey for the region. Admitting Boston College to the ACC, however, is doing just that for the South.

Under the new alignment, schools that have played each other annually in football decades won't meet at all. The conference's "Big Four"-North Carolina State, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke-will be split into two divisions. North Carolina State, just down the road apiece from Duke, won't always face the Blue Devils on the gridiron. Instead, there will be an annual match up with Boston College.

As bad as Duke football has been lately, it still needs to play the Wolfpack, its intercity rival. Who in Raleigh will care about a game versus Boston College, besides, of course, North Carolina State Athletics Director Lee Fowler? That match up has a storyline as compelling as that of a Detroit Tigers game in September. There could be a Civil War theme to it, as the Wolfpack try to somehow vindicate Appomattox 140 years later on the football field. But I doubt anyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line would buy that.

Now here's what Boston College should have done: joined its Northeastern Jesuit brethren in forming an all-Catholic league. The Eagles could have teamed up with schools such as Providence, Villanova, Georgetown and St. John's to create a formidable basketball conference.

You might even throw AU nemesis Holy Cross into that pool. Doing that would even things up in the Patriot League and restore pride to the ACC, finally putting our sectional squabbling to rest.

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